Working on the night shift can be hard on your body, especially if you aren't a natural night owl. However, regular workouts can help your body adapt to the grueling schedule and help you to get better sleep during daylight hours. Choosing the best time to work out depends on your personal preference, which is related to your individual circadian rhythms.
Benefits of Exercise
Regular exercise helps your body adapt to stressful circumstances, including the night shift's nontraditional sleep schedule. Exercise boosts your immune system and makes you more alert, which can help you function better at work during your shift. Exercise can also help you avoid relying on caffeine to stay awake or alcohol to fall asleep, which can become unhealthy habits.
Working out when you wake up, before your night shift, could give you the burst of energy you need to get your workday underway. This could be beneficial to someone who is normally tired when it's dark outside. A night owl might not need to work out first thing upon waking but could benefit from an energizing run or resistance-training session during a mid-shift break.
Working out in the morning, following your shift, could help you become tired enough to fall asleep as the sun rises. Alternatively, working out in the morning could energize you so much that you have trouble falling asleep right away. This could be desirable, if you prefer to wind down a little before your daytime rest. Eventually, the fatiguing effects of the workout will kick in, and you will be able to fall asleep.
Fueling Your Workout
Whenever you decide to exercise, eat a meal or snack at least two hours before your workout. Eating immediately before your workout could be uncomfortable. Alternatively, "The New York Times" reports that delaying breakfast -- or, if you are working out at night, the first meal of the day -- can be beneficial to a workout session. If you go for a run or swim on an empty stomach as soon as you wake up, follow it with a healthy meal to fuel you through the night shift.
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